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ArticleName Extraction of copper from the Gumeshev mine waters
DOI 10.17580/tsm.2019.06.02
ArticleAuthor Altushkin I. A., Korol Yu. A., Levin V. V., Bakin A. V.

Russian Copper Company, Ekaterinburg, Russia:

I. A. Altushkin, Chairman of the Board
Yu. A. Korol, Vice President for Production and Investment Control
V. V. Levin, President
A. V. Bakin, Vice President for Metal Manufacturing


Processing of low-copper solutions which result from natural or forced leaching of minerals from copper containing deposits is of relevance in terms of environmental protection and additional production of copper as a final product. Today, there are over 75 extraction/electrowinning units in operation around the world designed for extracting copper from sulphate solutions with the total output exceeding 3 mln tons. Russia has only seen one case of industrial implementation of this process, which has been exploited for almost 15 years. The authors offer some information about the practice of implementing this process and possible ways to enhance it. Russian Copper Company has been developing the Gumeshev deposit of cupriferous clays since 2004. The process involves in-situ leaching and further extraction of copper from solutions. The in-situ leaching and solution treatment site comprises a wellfield and a pregnant solution treatment and cathode copper production plant with the annual output reaching 5,000 tons of copper cathodes. The actual process of in-situ leaching involves four stages: drilling of wells and treatment of solutions; leaching; final leaching with the help of lowacid solutions; washing of the block with water as part of its further reclamation. The extraction division houses two mixer-settler units, which are in sequential operation; one re-extractor of similar design; one washing mixer and two tanks with organic substances. The solutions used for copper extraction at stages 2 and 3 contain 0.2 to 5.0 grams of copper per litre. The extraction section product is pumped to an electrowinning line situated in the same building. Copper is precipitated from the solution on cathode blanks, and after a specified time it is “stripped” from the blanks. This is how commercial copper cathodes are produced. The electrowinning process is greatly dependent on iron and chlorine ions. Gelatine and thiourea are added to electrolyte for better quality of copper, and cobalt sulphate is used to mitigate the anode corrosion. Almost 34th tons of copper were obtained thanks to the application of the process of extraction/re-extraction/electrowinning to the solutions produced through in-situ leaching of the Gumeshev deposit ores. The process equipment and the processes employed ensure an efficient operation of the entire complex – from the development of the deposit to the production of cathodes. At the same time, the key process indicators are comparable with global standards, which are typically based on higher concentrations of copper in ores and, consequently, in pregnant solutions. Thus, effort to optimise the production is mainly focused on process automation and enhancing the quality of monitoring data and the quality of the product.

keywords Copper, in-situ leaching, extraction, re-extraction, electrowinning, cathode copper, refined product, copper concentration

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